Q&A with Smyrna Ward 4 candidate and incumbent Councilman Charles “Corkey” Welch

Headshot of Smyrna City Councilman Charles "Corkey" Welch

[Photo provided by Charles “Corkey” Welch]

by Arielle Robinson

As part of our election coverage, the Cobb County Courier has sent a similar Q&A to each Smyrna City Council candidate who is running in a contested race and has responded to us.

Today’s focus is on Councilman Charles “Corkey” Welch, who was first elected in 2011. Welch is being challenged by lobbyist Michael Power.

This is Welch’s final time running for re-election.

Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 7. Visit Smyrna’s website to learn more about early voting, voting locations, and other voting-related information.

Below are our questions, followed by Welch’s answers.

Talk about your background. Who are you? What do you do as a day job? If retired, what did you do prior to retirement?

Welch: “First of all, everyone calls me Corkey. I have lived in the Smyrna area for 42 years and my wife, Catherine, has lived here for her entire life. We have been married for 41 years. Together we have two (2) children. Charles, our oldest is a Georgia Tech graduate. He, along with his wife Katie and our two(2) grandsons live in unincorporated Cobb County just inside of I-285. Nikki, our daughter, is a University of Georgia graduate and lives in Atlanta.

My full-time job for the past 42 years has been to work as a consulting engineer. In this role for the past 35 or so years, I have worked closely with City Managers, Mayors, and Elected Officials from other communities to assist them with the design and implementation of a wide array of projects generally in water, wastewater, street, and stormwater improvements. My current role is Senior Client Manager/Project Manager for Goodwyn Mills Cawood, LLC.(GMC). GMC is a multi-disciplined Architecture and Engineering firm with roughly 600 employees located in 25+/- offices throughout the southeast.”

How are you involved within the Smyrna community? For example, are there any civic organizations or volunteer activities you take part in or have taken part in over the years?

“I have for the past 13 years been active in the Smyrna Optimist Club. My favorite job there has been to head up the Oratorical Contest for school-aged children for 6 of the past 7 years. It is such a blessing to meet and hear the presentations of these young men and women. I also serve as a member of the Cobb County Marietta Water Authority Board of Directors and as member of the Smyrna Historical Society Board of Directors. My wife and I are both members and attend King Spring Baptist Church.”

Why are you running for election? What experience can you bring?

“For the past 12 years, I have served as the Ward 4 representative for the Smyrna City Council. My first reason for wanting to continue my time on the City Council is I feel that the institutional knowledge is important to helping the newer members to understand the roles and responsibilities of the job. Secondly, I ask questions when no one wants to speak up and possibly rock the boat. It’s important that we, as representatives of the citizens of Smyrna, know what we are voting on and the result of the vote.

As for my experience, my 42 years of working with municipalities throughout the state of Georgia gives me more experience than most of the members combined. I have seen many of the problems and issues facing the City of Smyrna throughout my career. This experience understanding is critical to making good decisions for the city.”

What are two priorities you have for the ward you’re running for?

“My ward is primarily a residential ward with very few commercial or industrial businesses. My primary goal is the continued improvements to the North Cooper Lake Park. The park is the largest park, in terms of acreage, within the city, yet we are only now getting permanent restrooms and a pavilion. I would like to see the park remain relatively passive.

My second goal would be to implement and maintain codes to protect our residential properties from being purchased by large real estate rental groups and turning Ward 4 into a rental community.”

What is a priority you have for the overall city?

“The city leaders are at a critical point in our city’s future. We have an ever-increasing population of younger adult residents and homeowners that want to see change within the city. This might include denser housing, an increased number of parks with high-end amenities, etc. We have already agreed, in concept, to purchase the First Baptist Church.  What comes next will be in the hands of City Council. Yesterday I attended a meeting to review different options for a new tennis/pickleball center and a new aquatic center with additional space for a learning center. We have also been asked to provide artificial turf for the soccer fields at River Line Park. Some of these projects will be funded through the SPLOST program but construction costs are much higher than they were when the original estimates were produced.

We must decide on what is a need vs. what is a want. The needs should always be priority one and the wants prioritized based on what we can afford.

My priority is to make good financial decisions regarding the projects we pursue over the next 4 years. It’s not all about the money but, at this juncture in time, it is the most important issue.”      

Can you explain your position on the downtown development project? (For example, the brewery, the new park, the costs of it)

“I did not support either the downtown park development or the brewery for the following reasons. First, I felt that the traffic flow through the downtown area was important to the businesses and the residents living to the west of the traffic circle. The removal of the traffic circle also eliminated an easy access point for the handicapped. The new location is on the other side of the Community Center and a much more difficult to maneuver. I actually presented City Council with a concept that would have maintained the handicapped access and roundabout but by this time, their decision was made. The area needed some updating but it could have been made for far less money than the overall renovation that was performed. I never said it wasn’t going to be a nice project, just that we could get a nice project for much less.

As for the Brewery, my objections were twofold. First, I did not, and still do not believe that the appropriate location is adjacent to our city Community Center where our children meet for recreational purposes. I have heard on several occasions that this facility is a family-oriented business. This may be where I show my age and old fashion beliefs but, in my mind, a brewery is not a family-oriented business. My second issue associated with this project is the park located immediately south of the brewery. When this project was first presented to City Council there was a plan to take the $600,000 payment for the brewery and use the funds to pay for the improvements in the park. Prices jumped once to $1,000,000 and again to I believe $1,450,000+/-. In my mind, the park is being built more for the benefit of the Brewery than the citizens. I did in concept agree initially to allow the Economic Development department to pursue the project. After really thinking through the development and its location I reversed my support and have adamantly opposed it since.”

How can people stay connected to you and your campaign?

“My personal email is cwelch@gmail.com.

My personal cell phone number is 404-626-3893. If I don’t answer, leave a message and I will call you back.

I try to email a copy of the City Weekly Update every weekend with personal comments. If you want to be included on the list of recipients please email me your email address.”

If elected, how will Smyrna look different by the time your term is up?

“That’s a difficult question. I have always thought that part of my job on City Council was to maintain what previous City Councils put in place.

  • I want to maintain our AAA credit rating. 
  • I want to maintain our reserve funds.
  • I want to maintain our feeling of community.
  • I want to maintain the honesty and integrity of the office that I hold.

So what do I want to look different:

  • I want to finish some of the projects that we have ongoing such as Windy Hill and the Downtown Parks and the North Cooper Lake restrooms and pavilion.
  • I want to make good decisions regarding the First Baptist Church development and for the project to be something that we all support and feel good about.
  • I want an aquatic center that serves the needs of our swim teams yet doesn’t create a financial burden for the city finances
  • I want to create an environment of support for my constituents.”

This is your last time running. What legacy do you hope to leave for the city and your ward after your final term?

“That I served with honesty and integrity and made decisions that were based on my ideals and the ideals of my constituents.”

This question is optional, is there anything else you would like to mention? 

“Please reelect Charles ‘Corkey’ Welch  for your Ward 4 City Council representative on November 7, 2023.”